G1 Climax 27 Night Five
July 23 2017
We’re in Machida, Japan at the General Gymnasium. This is the first time G1 has properly gone out on tour this year, hitting up the smaller towns (sort of, we’re still technically in Tokyo). As a result English commentary bites the big one. It’s all Japanese commentary now until the final three shows; the last two Block showdowns and the final night itself. You could be forgiven for tuning out slightly at this point and rejoining us at the end of the tour. People would forgive you. They’d talk about you behind your back of course. Words like “stamina” would come up. Anyhow, we’re back in Block A tonight with Ishii vs. Ibushi being a tantalising prospect. The main event however is Goto vs. Makabe. Whatever, Gedo.
The format changes slightly here as we move up from four prelim matches to five. Which means every show until the final night has ten matches. It’s a marathon, lads.
Michael Elgin & Katsuya Kitamura vs. TenCozy
Elgin & Kitamura is the tag team I never knew I wanted. Holy shit. This match is to set up Elgin vs. Kojima on Night Six. Which is on Tuesday, as the boys have a day off on Monday. Probably so they can watch WWE PPV Battleground. Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kannellis! Yeah! They can support Shinsuke Nakamura in his battle with Baron Corbin. I see so many shows in Korakuen Hall that it’s almost jarring to see NJPW in a similar sized venue that’s not Korakuen Hall. The lighting is different. Kitamura terrorises Kojima here, softening him up for Elgin. Kitamura is a beast. I would not be shocked to see him in G1 next year. Just skipping over the excursion and stepping up. He is a lot older than the normal young lion. For the time being he’ll have to settle for Tenzan gently whispering spots into his ear. I wonder if Big Mike would want to take Big Katsuya under his wing on a US excursion? Imagine that beast terrifying the United States with his muscles, dark brown tan and pointed animal teeth? Kitamura’s chops are already the stuff of legend. He almost murders Tenzan with one here, sending him barrelling out of the ring before turning into a Kojima lariat for the loss. Big fan of Kitamura.
Final Rating: **3/4
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & El Desperado) vs. Juice Robinson, David Finlay & Hirai Kawato
Poor little Juice has MiSu on Tuesday so he has to double down on taking a beating by having a warm up beating too. Juice, already suffering from a bad neck, limps to the ring. Well, he’s fucked. Suzuki, in typical form, shows no mercy whatsoever. The result is chopfest, which is a delight. MiSu finds that too fair and goes after Juice’s bad leg. It would make tremendous sense if Juice tapped out in a meaningless tag to preserve his leg for the more important G1 match. Suzuki is in a surly mood and kills Kawato for breaking up a submission. He stands up, no sells, kills him with a slap and then boots the poor kid out of the ring. It’s sensational character work. He’s an absolute prick.
Suzuki makes a point of going after Juice to make this meaningful. He wants to soften up his opponent. He doesn’t care about Finlay or Kawato in the slightest. I do selfishly want Suzuki vs. Kawato. The Suzuki-gun lads bully Kawato until Despy puts him away. I hope they book him versus Suzuki for shits and giggles. Post match Suzuki continues to go after Juice’s leg, attempting to shatter his kneecap with a chair.
Final Rating: ***
EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi vs. Tama Tonga & Chase Owens
Hiromu looks like he’s lost his fucking mind, holding an imaginary stuffed cat on his way to the ring. Cradling the invisible feline in his arms, hugging a ghost. There’s no Fale for Hiromu to get revenge on but he sure seems mad at Bullet Club in general. EVIL vs. Tama is happening on Tuesday. That’s exactly the kind of match I’d expect to see on a random tour show for G1. Four matches off the top. This is another clash of heels where both parties try to out-do each other. This works for the most part but EVIL puts Chase away with the Banshee Muzzle before anything worthwhile can occur. Post match Tama attempts Gun Stun and EVIL just throws him off. Tama has had a rough couple of days. Tried to rebel against the regime of Kenny Omega, lost badly to Omega and now can’t compete with EVIL, a second stringer for LIJ.
Final Rating: **1/4
Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Toru Yano & Jado
Omega vs. Yano on Tuesday. If you think Omega gives a shit about any of this you’d be wrong. He’ll play the fool and show ass against Yano but ultimately this means nothing to him. Jado and Yujiro run camp spots, slowly, from yesteryear. Omega is reduced to making gags about how greasy Yano’s hair is. This continues until Yujiro drops Jado with his short DDT. Omega remaining upset about hair pulling incidents long after the bell has rung.
Final Rating: *1/2
SANADA & BUSHI vs. Kazuchika Okada & Gedo
Okada vs. SANADA on Tuesday. If SANADA had upended MiSu that match might hold a little more intrigue. Instead it looks as if SANADA is destined to a repeat of last year. Some big wins, but nothing substantial. Which is odd because I had him as one of the outside shots at making the final. They’re certainly making the contest seem important. SANADA evades even the most straightforward of Okada’s spots in this. Okada too. They both counter like motherfuckers. It’s designed to sell us on the possibility that SANADA is Okada’s equal. That part of the match is pretty great and I have no doubt their singles match will kill it. This tag is less interesting because of BUSHI-Gedo, which is a nothing contest. BUSHI picks up the win with a diving MX while SANADA has the champ subdued. Looking forward to their main event on Tuesday.
Final Rating: **1/2
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Zack Sabre Jr.  vs. YOSHI-HASHI 
Both guys are 1-1 but Sabre made Tacos look like a boy in their tag match last night.
As YOSHI-HASHI makes his way to the ring he looks nervous and uncomfortable. He knows a stretching awaits. Across the ring Zack looks calm and relaxed. He’s got a big match experience edge and he knows he’s technically superior. YOSHI-HASHI and his massive hair finds himself on the defensive quickly. Seriously, his hair looks like it should be playing bass for Bon Jovi or Whitesnake. Suzuki-gun disappoint again here with El Desperado interfering on Zack’s behalf. As with Suzuki, the interference isn’t needed. Sabre is fine without it, dismantling Y-H’s arm. It’s all a bit tragic, watching YOSHI-HASHI try and draw sympathy by getting the crowd to clap and gaining zero response, before Sabre stretches him again. Tacos does manage a few explosive comebacks although Sabre’s bumping is what drives those. Nobody lands all folded up like an accordion better than Sabre. Without YOSHI-HASHI’s comebacks the match would be monotonous. It would make sense but it would be one pace. The mixture of offensive moves allows Sabre to distinguish himself, by switching from strike to submission. There’s a nice spot where YOSHI-HASHI tries to power out of a triangle, which is how Ibushi beat Zack, only to find he’s not strong enough. Sabre can definitely be overpowered. That much is certain. But not by YOSHI-HASHI. Sabre stretches YOSHI-HASHI one way, then another, until the Headhunter can take no more. He gives up to a standing version of the Young Boy Killer. Sabre looked good in dismantling YOSHI-HASHI here.
Final Rating: ***3/4
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Yuji Nagata  vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi 
Nagata has been blanked so far, in his final G1. I’m not expecting to see much improvement in his score but his effort levels have been outstanding thus far. The crowd respond strongly to him as soon as he appears. His ‘retirement’ run has created genuine buzz around his matches. He knows there’s no tomorrow so he’s going all out.
Tanahashi finds himself mobbed by the rubes. His flashy robes and stylish hair make him the champion of their hearts. Tana comes in with his bad arm so he feels the need to level the playing field and slaughter Nagata’s leg. That, combined with some cheeky air guitar, positions him firmly as the bad guy in this. It gives Nagata a hill to climb. The old gunfighter going up against the established best, trying to prove himself on the draw. His comebacks are so fiery. It’s all murderous kicks, that take lumps out of Tanahashi. And yet the crowd loudly jeer Tana for everything he does. It’s all in the little movements and taunts. He knows what he’s doing. He knows the crowd want to cheer Nagata over him and he gives them reasons to do so. What a guy. Nagata’s desperation becomes apparent as the match progresses. He’s desperate to get some points. Fuck Tanahashi and his legendary status. Nagata just needs them points. Meanwhile Tanahashi has got to be one of the all time greats for being able to turn a crowd on him when he’s got a torn bicep and is in the tournament through sheet guts alone. They take to slapping each other and Tanahashi’s lands so hard he busts open Nagata’s cheek. That’s a slap and a half. From there Nagata is done. He gets dropped by the High Fly Flow and Tanahashi moves on to four points. Tana is going to be in contention come the end of this tournament. Nagata is on his way out. The result is a no-brainer. The work here was great. Tana’s heel work was sly. Nagata’s babyface fire was fucking great. Loved this.
Final Rating: ****
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Tetsuya Naito  vs. Bad Luck Fale 
Naito has the suit on so you know he’s taking this seriously. Fale is one of those guys that’s hard to get a read on. He always gets wins over big talent and acts as a spoiler. Naito is aware of his reputation and jumps the big man before he’s even in the ring, thus saving the ring announcer from his usual beating. This is followed by Fale botching and dropping Naito on a straightforward catch spot. Fale, like a lot of stereotypical big guys, works too soft for my liking. It’s as if he’s afraid of hurting his opponents, which is a legitimate concern because he’s huge. New Japan need to find him an opponent he’s not worried about twatting one. Fale spends most of this match stamping on Naito’s spine. This doesn’t go anywhere and merely exists to kill time. The match is all about whether Naito can hit Destino or not. Fale is, basically, too big and powerful for this to occur. When Fale has avoided an attempt at Destino he smacks the Grenade in there and finishes with Bad Luck Fall. Yet again Fale has claimed a major scalp, limiting Naito’s Block tally in a fashion that doesn’t harm the Ingobernable one.
Final Rating: **1/2
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Tomohiro Ishii  vs. Kota Ibushi 
This was the match I was most looking forward to on this card. They had a barnburner a few years back when Ibushi was a regular member of the NJPW roster. These two are not going to take it easy just because it’s “only Machida”. Speaking of which; Machida is basically in Tokyo. So we’ve not really gone on tour as yet. That said, it is further away from Tokyo than Yokohama. Japan is a confusing place. These two set a frantic, exciting pace with dodging and attempted big strikes from the get go.
Ishii brings a level of intensity that few wrestlers, anywhere in the world, can match. Kota doesn’t have to match him toe to toe but he can attack Ishii with a greater tactical variety.
This includes Ibushi’s biggest striking weapon; his kicks. Which Ishii is clearly bothered by but refuses to sell. There’s a cunning difference between no selling a move and showing pain, and thus overcoming it, to no sell a move. Ishii is the master of the latter. The meat of the match is these two leathering each other with strikes. Ishii is the don of this style, the intrinsically Japanese approach to wrestling, akin to sumo, where two guys just batter each other. They do that here with tremendous intensity. Ibushi making a point of largely keeping his feet on solid ground and using those appendages as offensive weapons rather than springboards. Ishii does a majestic job of selling for Kota and dropping dead when a wild looking roundhouse connects, or a sturdy knee finds his shiny dome. The sheer barrage of strikes is eventually too much for Ishii and he gets dropped by the Last Ride. Ibushi is genuinely contesting this Block, sadly Ishii is having another year where he has phenomenal matches but doesn’t go anywhere.
Final Rating: ****1/2
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Hirooki Goto  vs. Togi Makabe 
With six guys on four points, Goto is the unique position of being able to lead the Block by himself if he wins here. Of course Makabe being blanked after three matches seems unlikely, given his popularity and fame. Also Goto is one of the most likely wrestlers to choke, when faced with success, in the world. He is the Chokemaster. They have a tidy hard-hitting match, which struggles to follow the previous contest. There’s nothing wrong with it but perhaps it would have been better positioned lower down the card. It doesn’t have the excitement or presence of a legitimate main event. Both wrestlers are the embodiment of guys I like when they’re wrestling a high quality opponent. Against each other? I’m less interested. Anyway, they smack each other around for a while and it slides toward epic. Slowly building and telling the story of Makabe being anxious to get off the mark. He succeeds in part due to a rare innovative King Kong Kneedrop, where he hits it from an unexpected angle. They go on to set it up the traditional way afterwards but Goto getting caught by surprise is what leads directly to the finish, which is a smart piece of storytelling. Makabe rarely thinks outside the box so when he does it’s an event.
Final Rating: ***1/2
With Night Five in the books here’s the standings in Block A. Already it’s getting crowded at the top with six wrestlers sharing the same 2-1 record. The favourites are in there; Naito, Goto, Tanahashi, Ibushi but also a few outsiders like Fale (who’s always up there but never wins) and Sabre, who’s probably collected the bulk of his points already.
BLOCK A Standings
Hirooki Goto 4
Tetsuya Naito 4
Zack Sabre Jr 4
Hiroshi Tanahashi 4
Bad Luck Fale 4
Kota Ibushi 4
Tomohiro Ishii 2
Togi Makabe 2
Yuji Nagata 0
As soon as we leave Korakuen Hall behind and the tour begins in earnest it’s traditional for the standard to drop somewhat. That was true here and yet Ishii-Ibushi is one of the best G1 matches of the tour so far. It’s a tough tournament to predict but it’s all been fun so far.